Experimax is an electronic retail store specializing in the repair and trade-in value of certified pre-owned and reusable Apple products. The business concept was co-created and developed by John Muir, and his father Jim Muir back in 2009. During this time, the Muirs began their business venture by selling all of their computer-electronics out of their home garage, and taking the value from those initial sales to open up their first store location in West Palm Beach, Florida in 2012.
Since 2015, due to the success at their original store in West Palm Beach, Florida, the Muir owned-family business has grown into a global franchise, having merged with the United Franchise Group, a Palm Beach County-based franchise development service. This opportunity led Experimax to offer franchise opportunities for entrepreneurs across the nation and world-wide around the world.
In an exclusive interview with Experimax co-founder John Muir, Dan Miegel sits down with the local West Palm business innovator to discuss everything from how this unique entrepreneurial idea first got off the ground, to business concept and strategy in customer interaction, and professional advice for fellow entrepreneurs on how to set up their Experimax franchise for a long run of stable and profitable business success.
Q1: The Beginning
DM: So John, let’s start at the top. You co-founded Experimax with your father Jim, opening the store’s original location in West Palm back in February 2012. In the beginning, you guys started by selling used electronics out of your home garage. Describe how this original stepping stone lead to the launch of your nationwide and now worldwide electronics company?
JM: So the original stepping stone was that we started selling stuff on Craig’s List. This is the big turning point in the business. We probably had 6 or 7 people a day showing up at our house to buy stuff. The homeowners association told my dad to stop having all these people show up at our house, or they were going to kick us out. At that point, we decided to open a storefront. People were doing a similar thing to what we were doing online, but nobody had a local store around in the area. We sold all of the computers that we had in our house to open our first store, under our original name MacToys in early 2012 at our initial location off Southern Boulevard and Sandsberry Way. Luckily, we had already built a little bit of a local following, and the store started off really well. We started doing phone repairs, selling cases, and slowly but surely we went from just flipping computers to doing all kinds of accessories.
DM: After the initial success at the original storefront in West Palm, what happened next that allowed for a natural transition into becoming a franchise opportunity for new aspiring business owners/entrepreneurs?
JM: About a year after we opened our first store in West Palm, we were approached by a man named Ray Titus, the owner of United Franchise Group, a franchising company based locally here in Palm Beach County. He asked if he could set up a meeting to speak with us about the possibility of setting up our store with a franchise. It was at that time that he informed us that he wanted to change the name of our business to Experimac, which just last year we changed to its current name, Experimax. Apple had a problem with us using the iMac in our title. By the end of 2014, that was when we signed the franchise agreement with United Franchise Group. Then, by February 2015, we opened up our first franchise store. During that period, we were pulled into the franchising aspect of the business, and it was a cool time, because me and my dad needed more help from my other siblings and there were some years there where it was me, my Dad, and my three brothers all working in the same store at the same time. But at this time now, we’re just getting back to being able to re-focus on the local business, whereas for years working with the first few dozens of franchisees just really pulled our attention away from our locally owned line of business here in West Palm.
DM: After having initial success at your original store location in West Palm Beach, you transformed this tech-related business into a franchise-based company, which follows the step by step guidelines of the turn-key model business plan. In a day and age when so many people have a vision of being their own boss and striving for entrepreneurial success, what is the best way to keep tabs on your store owners in terms of them not swaying too far away from the store-owner guidelines you’ve laid out for your franchisees?
JM: As far as store-owner guidelines, I don’t put my guys on a script. Having held a background in car sales, I’ve learned that people have adjusted to some of the sales tactics that I was taught when I was younger which come from the ’80s, ’90s, and maybe even into the 2000s. I just think generations of the sharky salespeople have caused many of us to reflexively not trust an aggressive salesperson. That’s one of the reasons I don’t pay my employees commission. I know the kind of tension that would create among people on a sales team. The manager’s job is to make sure we’re making money on the stuff we’re buying and selling. Its the job of the salespeople to develop a relationship with the customer where they trust them, As one of my employees, the best way to get a promotion and improve your standing in my company is to have customers come back and ask for you by name. That’s what I want to see.
DM: You sell pre-owned Apple products which include used mobile devices, desktops, laptops, and wearables all having been operated on by a prior owner of the device or product. What is the best way to test the durability of these products for you to sell that them in confidence that they will operate at their full capacity for the foreseeable future while in the hands of the purchasing customer of the sold product?
JM: The best way to sell quality consistent products is to sell things that were never broken,to begin with. The bulk of the product I’m getting is off-lease from companies like Xerox who after every three years will give their employees a new MacBook error. In this example, when the company is constantly refreshing, what would they do with all those old MacBook errors though? They sell them off to a big wholesale company who I then buy thirty or so from. That’s where durability testing comes in. All I’m doing is testing them out. Now as you can imagine over ten years we’ve a very solid process to very quickly and efficiently check and inspect every point of the product. We inspect for liquid damage, because liquid damage is the best way to have a problem that you don’t see now that’s going show up down the road. Everything we buy locally goes to the sheriff’s office to make sure that you’re not buying something that was stolen from somebody else, that could be locked or could potentially be a problem down the road. The best thing we do to sell quality products pre-owned, is we sell Apple products. It’s a tough concept for people who have never been in the Apple space to understand, because if you’ve only been using PCs’your whole life why would somebody want a three-year-old computer? Well people in my space want 11 and 12-year-old Apple computers because they work very well for a very long time. I mean, in this case, we’re not talking about a nice $1,400.00 HP, we’re talking the $350.00 computer you can get at Wal-Mart. They’d much rather spend that $350.00 on an eight, nine, or ten year old Apple computer. Apple makes such a reliable product that they create new software that won’t work on your old device. This is something that irritates people because their device works fine but Apple stops supporting it, and because of that you can’t do certain things such as downloading new apps on their phone and essentially Apple forces these people to buy a new version of their product by arbitrarily saying no to utilizing an old version of their product. So our company on the other hand, squeezes a little more life out of these older products. There does become a line in the sand where we tell people that their only going to experience more problems if they continue forward with a particular product. I would say right now anything older than 2012, is just not worth it. Now if you already own it, and just want to figure out how you can use it for a couple more years, that’s a different story. But yeah, eight-year-old Apple products are still very strong and you just don’t see that with other brands. But as you can imagine after ten years, I have great relationships with vendors, I know who and who I don’t want to buy stuff from, and my guys have become really good at quality control. I do an in-house one-year warranty, I don’t sell a customer to a warranty company where when you have a problem, you have to get on the phone with some middle guy. You come right into our store, and they either fix the problem very quickly or we replace the unit for them. We don’t sell extended warranties, it’s included with every computer, you get the year, and we stand behind everything after that.
DM: What is the number one thing a person going into the tech sales industry needs to know to be successful in this particular line of work?
JM: I think enthusiasm for the technology is the big differentiator in whether people are successful and enjoy the work. The truth is, we used to call it the Mac toy store. We play with toys all day. We’re playing with phones, computers and dealing with costumers. If you don’t enjoy those things, then this business isn’t for you. Human interaction and interacting with the technology, that’s the whole thing we are doing. That’s all it is, you’re either fixing something, or you’re helping a customer with a technology-based issue. I would say everything we in Experimac, from the manager level to the employee level, is learnable and teachable. We’re not doing high-level board work, soldering. That’s just not the kind of work that we’re doing. So everything we’re doing, you could learn hypothetically if you wanted to. But if you don’t have an interest in learning it, it’s going be difficult for you to be successful at it. When I hire my guys, I generally hire people that haven’t done this before and we teach it to them. I would rather hire a good waiter or waitress and teach them the nerdy stuff, then go hire a nerd and teach them the being-friendly mentality. You can teach how to fix a phone. You can teach someone how these computers work. You can’t teach a person how to make eye contact, you can’t teach how to come to work on time, you can’t teach those kinds of personality traits. So I would much rather find somebody interested in learning what we do than someone that already knows how to do it. In a lot of cases, my guys have just recently become an expert on these things so they have an easier time communicating with someone whose not an expert on these things.
Looking back, is their one product that you found, repaired or fully restored as a hobby prior to the start of this company that convinced you as an entrepreneur that you had the tools to create a successful business plan for you and your fellow franchisees to thrive in the tech sales industry?
Experimax was founded in 2012. Due to the large-scale success of your company back home in Florida, you’ve expanded franchise opportunities for people out in the international market, particularly in the South African region. Being successful in the comfortable confines of growing a business in right here with multiple Experimax franchises in your native country of the U.S. what were the highest risk versus reward factors that you evaluated while deciding to move your brand into foreign countries?
JM: As much as we’re are excited to be in the international market, we don’t really pursue those types of opportunities. Those opportunities find us. For instance, in the South Africa example, a South African business person reached out to us. They found out about us, whether it was at a trade show, through the Internet, or the marketing we do, and they approached us. They were excited about our model, the track record that United Franchise Group has as a franchise company and they come to us and we put them into business over in their country. We don’t necessarily pursue international business opportunities, so much as people pursue us and we help them get set up through our training course, and through the different support systems we have in place, so that they can do what we do, and sell franchises in their own country. We sell a master license to a person, and they start selling Experimax in their territory. We give them the tools they need and it’s their job to grow that brand in their specific area. I’m not monitoring each store on a daily basis. I’m here to be reached out to by the franchisees that want to reach out to me, but ultimately they’re all independently owned and operated businesses just like my three stores in Palm Beach County.
.How do the business regulations differ for your franchises overseas to the ones back home here in the U.S.?
Experimax offers an initial two-week training course down at global headquarters down in West Palm Beach. Explain the itinerary of that course and what the person must know when they leave there after the end of those two weeks?
JM: A person will come to our standard two-week training course, and during the duration of this training program, we teach them how to run the business, we teach them how to manage their bookkeeping, and how to run a clean, efficient business. We teach hiring practices, not so much sales tactics, because again, we don’t work off a script. These guys are given the opportunities to become good salespeople through experience, not by following some weird script that I’ve written for them. We come in, we do role-playing, we teach them all about the products of course, and how to run the business. Then, once they’re open, we provide a booklet that tells people how much to buy and sell materials for, and we kind of spoon-feed them a lot in the early going. Once they are up and running, they can run their business any way they want. You can lead somebody in a direction, but if they don’t want to get with the program, then there is only so much you can do. But the bulk of the people are only becoming part of the program because they want to run the program and when people do it the way that we’ve had success here, for the most part, they become successful at their store’s location. But at the end of the day, they are a business owner, and they have to do good work to build their brand in their area.
For information on how to become the next Experimax franchisee and obtain the best certified pre-owned product value, visit their company website link at the bottom of the page. In your quest to own a franchise you will receive a top of the line education through the professional guidance of the best innovators and trained employees in the retail electronics industry. Time to put your foot in the door and start today!